One of my Facebook pals posted a link to a teacher's blog which had an anecdote on it that I found absolutely repellent. It might seem hypocritical to repeat it here, but I do need to give you the gist of it.
Apparently, in a staffroom goodness knows where, the talk turned to childbirth and the fact that some women lose control of their bowels during labour. The punchline was that the local hospital had been throwing the wrong thing away afterwards, leaving the school to deal with the consequences. Now, I have got nothing against anyone saying that their job or circumstances are crap but, when they suggest that the kids themselves are no better than human waste, I get uneasy for a number of reasons.
OK, it's a joke and I'm taking it too seriously. You might even point out that I don't teach any more, and that I finished my career in what I have said myself was one of the most pleasant schools in the country. Trust me, I will never forget what it is like to be in the classroom. Even at the end of my two-and-a-bit decades worth, I was humbled by the way that a particular mix of pupils could leave me feeling small, and the story of my final year is one I am only just getting ready to tell.
I'm not claiming, either, that I never felt like referring to any of my pupils using scatalogical swear words. I learnt to stop myself because, after a while, I realised that there was pretty well always something at the back of bad behaviour, usually related to the sort of home background I was lucky enough never to have experienced. That doesn't mean I found bad behaviour acceptable, that I didn't challenge it, become frustrated, humiliate myself on occasion by totally losing the tattie or drive home with unsophisticated rock music playing at the loudest safe volume.
In the early days, that home was the family home I had grown up in. My folks were sympathetic when I came in, barely out of short trousers myself, with a tale of classroom hassle.
However, one day I pompously said to my mother that I used the metaphor of the sculptor for what I did. If I was given stone or clay to work with, I could produce something wonderful. On the other hand, presented with a heap of horse manure, the results would be predictably awful. "That's someone's child, you're talking about," was all she said. I wasn't mature enough to realise there and then that my metaphor was ill-considered and flippant, but I was lucky enough to have the family support where such a realisation could be nurtured.
So perhaps that's why I didn't like the blog post. It reminded me of a time when I was crass and lacked insensitivity. Worse, it reminds me that I am still capable of being crass and insensitive. Some day soon, I will demonstrate this again with the story of genius sculptor Henry Moore putting out the bins - but I'm not ready to do that yet.
Gregor Steele is glad that blogging facilities were not around when he was a young teacher.